UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for January, 2011

UKOLN Seminar on Elluminate Open to All

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 January 2011

Background to UKOLN’s Seminars

UKOLN has been running a seminar programme for many years.  The seminar programme was set up initially to provide a means for UKOLN staff to keep up-to-date with developments in the digital library environment.  Over the years we have had many leading lights from the global digital information environment have spoken at UKOLN seminars. Last year this included:

  • Mackenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at MIT Libraries, who gave a talk entitled “ Data Governance and the Creative Commons: Keeping Data Open and Interoperable at Web-Scale“.
  • Dr Andrew Treloar is the Director of Technology for the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), who gave a talk entitled  “Providing services to support data discovery and re-use: the role of the Australian National Data Service“.
  • Ann Borda of the Victorian eResearch Initiative (VeRSI) in Melbourne, Australia who described the work of her host institution and related activities in Australia.
  • Dorothea Salo, University of Wisconsin-Madison who gave a talk entitled “Grab a bucket — it’s raining data!”.
  • Dr David Wallom is the Technical Manager of the Oxford e-Research Centre, who gave a talk entitled “ Cloud and using IaaS cloud within the FLeSSR and NGS“.

In addition to these seminars on emerging developments we have also included seminars which provide an opportunity for staff to update their skills update, most recently Nitin Parmar, Learning Technologist, Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office here at the University of Bath described use of the Panopto lecture capture system.

Widening Access to Our Seminars

As part of a culture of openness and maximising access to valuable resources we aim to open up access to UKOLN seminars more widely in the future.  The seminars will normally be open to all members of staff at the University of Bath.  In addition we will also seek to record and possibly live stream the seminars, provided the speakers are happy with this and the technical infrastructure and support is available.  Note that as we appreciate that speakers may be reluctant for their talks to be recorded as it could, for example, inhibit discussions we do not intend to pressurise speakers into allowing their talks to be made publicly available.

Seminar on ‘Elluminate Live!’

The first seminar this year will provide  details on the ‘Elluminate Live!’ software which is available at the University of Bath. The seminar will be given by Julian Prior of the University of Bath e-learning team who, as can be seen from his blog, provides advice and support on use of e-elearning tools.  The abstract for the session is given below:

This session will explore the current use of the web conferencing software ‘Elluminate Live!’ at the University of Bath. After examining the growth of synchronous online solutions in the context of recent work on the amplification of events and the push towards sustainability in HE, we will examine the functionality of the software and discuss a range of usage scenarios. The session will also cover best practices in using the software as well as considering alternatives to Elluminate including the open source ‘Big Blue Button’.

An Elluminate room will be available during the session for any remote participants who wish to attend the seminar online.

It is clearly appropriate that the Elluminate system itself will be used to provide access to a remote audience.  If you would like to attend the online seminar you will need to provide your email address on a Google Spreadsheet form so that access information can be provided.  Please note that unfortunately it will not be possible to provide any technical support. However,  as described in a post on the JISC Advance blog the Elluminate Web site contains useful guides and tutorials on using Elluminate. Remote participants should test their setup in advance.

For those who wish to attend the event in the Library at the University of Bath you should complete the online booking form.  Please note that due to the size of the room there will be room for only 10-15 participants besides UKOLN staff.

Timeliness of this Session

An hour ago I received an email about the “JISC GRANT FUNDING 4/08: E-LEARNING PROGRAMME Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants (Round 6)“. The accompanying documentation stated that:

A briefing event will be held online via Elluminate on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 2pm. The participant link for this is are strongly encouraged to attend this briefing, although a recording will be made available after the event (link for recording:

Since we are increasingly seeing JISC make use of Elluminate for meetings related to its calls, those who are interested in submitting proposals to JISC who are unfamiliar with Elluminate might find that the seminar provides a timely opportunity to try out this online meeting service.

Posted in Events | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

#WWW2011 and the Grand Programming Challenge

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 January 2011

The Grand Programming Challenge at WWW 2011

I recently received an email which provides updates about the WWW 2011 conference. As this year’s conference will be held in Hyderabad, India I suspect there won’t be as many participants from the UK as there has been in the past. Despite the difficulties which Web researchers and developers  are likely to face in attending this conference I thought it was worth mentioning one new feature of this year’s conference: the Grand Programming Challenge.

This 24 hour programming contest will take place in the Developer’s Track at the conference.  Contestants in teams of 3-5 will be expected to work at the conference venue and in 24 hours build a web-based system that best addresses the needs of one of three themes which will be announced on 30 March. The contest will be judged by a jury of eminent software developers the following day, with the winners announced in the evening. The winning team will win a prize of 100,000 Rupees (~ £1,378).

The organisers have made arrangements with  Amazon, Google and Microsoft who have agreed to make their cloud computing environments available to the participants. In addition to these platforms, the organizers are exploring ways to organize access to data sources such as UID infrastructure and travel and tourism sites. Participants will be  encouraged to explore open APIs for services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn,  etc. Access from mobile enabled devices in addition to desktop Web browsers will be expected. Access to systems for individuals with special needs and multi-lingual support will also be encouraged.

The JISC-Funded DevCSI Project

The approaches taken in the Grand Programming Challenge have many similarities to the work of the JISC-funded DevCSI project which is being led by colleagues at UKOLN. As described on the project’s home page:

DevCSI is about helping software developers realise their full potential, by creating the conditions for them to be able to learn, to network effectively, to share ideas and to collaborate, creating a ‘community’ of developers in the learning provider sector which is greater than the sum of its parts. So with every developer employed in in a learning provider organisation in the UK comes a wealth of talent and experience. The developer benefits. The sector benefits. The main thrust of DevCSI activity currently is to run and/or sponsor events for and by developers and to encourage a community to form around these shared activities. The main developer challenge event organised in 2010 was the Open Repositories 2010 Developer Challenge which took place at the Open Repositories 2010  conference held in Madrid. The challenge was issued in a single sentence:

Create a functioning repository user-interface, presenting a single metadata record which includes as many automatically created, useful links to related external content as possible.

As described in a blog post about the challenge the awards were announced at the conference dinner (the night of Spain vs Germany semi-final at the World Cup!) with the summary of the winners entry (from Rory McNicholl and Richard Davis, University of London Computer Centre) being captured on video. In addition to this high profile developer challenge DevCSI has run a  number of events for developers including, in the past two months,  Linked Data Hackdays, Workflow Tools, Developing for the Mobile Web and Agile Prototyping Techniques. Further information on these and forthcoming events available on the DevCSI Netvibes page.

An Opportunity For Developers in the UK?

In light of the expertise possessed  by developers across the UK higher education community including expertise in rapid development work which takes place at DevCSI events and similar hack fests throughout the sector might the WWW 2011 Grand Programming Challenge provide an opportunity for engagement by UK-based developers? I don’t know if the rules or the etiquette of programming challenges permits the involvement of remote participants – the rules for the Open Repositories 2010 Developer Challenge, for example, state that  “The entries must be presented, in person, at OR10. Not all of the team members need be present at OR10, but at least one team-member must be” but it is unclear as to whether such virtual participation is restricted to official members of a team.

However in light of the difficulties and costs of travelling to India I did wonder whether remote participation with teams physically present at WWW 2011 might be a possibility and, indeed, encouraged. After all open source software development is most effective when it is carried out in an open and collaborative fashion. Do we know of UK-based developers who might be planning attending WWW 2011 and enter the competition?  And can we explore ways of collaboration – after all, the time zone differences may work to the advantage of a globally distributed development team.

Posted in Development | 1 Comment »

Further HTML5 Developments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 January 2011

Updated HTML5 Documents

Back in November 2010 in a post entitled Eight Updated HTML5 Drafts and the ‘Open Web Platform’ I described how the W3C had published draft versions of eight documents related to HTML5.  It seems that W3C staff and members of various HTML5 working groups have been busy over Christmas as the HTML Working Group has published further revised versions of eight documents:

HTML5 Marketing Activities

HTML5 LogoThe significance of the development work to HTML5 specifications and the importance which W3C is giving to HTML5 can be seen from the announcement that “W3C Introduces an HTML5 Logo” which describes this “striking visual identity for the open web platform“.

The page about the logo is full of marketing rhetoric:

Imagination, meet implementation. HTML5 is the cornerstone of the W3C’s open web platform; a framework designed to support innovation and foster the full potential the web has to offer. Heralding this revolutionary collection of tools and standards, the HTML5 identity system provides the visual vocabulary to clearly classify and communicate our collective efforts.

The W3C have also pointed out how the logo is being included on t-shirts, which you can buy for $22.50.   The marketing activity continues with encouragement for HTML5 developers to engage in viral marketing:

Tweet your HTML5 logo sightings with the hashtag#html5logo

In addition to Web sites owners being able to use this logo on their Web sites and fans of HTML5 being able to wear a T-shirt (“wearware”?) as I learnt from Bruce Lawson’s post on “On The HTML5 Logo”  users of FireFox and Opera browsers can install a Greasemonkey Script or Opera extension which will display a small HTML5 logo in the top right hand corner of the window of HTML5 pages. I’ve tried this and it works.

Such marketing activities are unpopular in some circles with much of the criticismcentered around the FAQ’s original statement that the logo means “a broad set of open web technologies”, which some believe “muddies the waters” of the open web platform“.  In light of such concerns the W3C have updated the HTML5 Logo FAQ.

I have to say that personally I applaud this initiative.  In the past the commercial sector has taken a lead in popularising Web developments as we saw in the success of the Web 2.0 meme – it’s good, I feel, that the W3C are taking a high profile in the marketing of HTML5 developments. I also feel that this is indicative of the importance of HTML5, which, judging from examples of HTML5’s potential which I have described in a number of recent posts, will be of more significance than the moves from HTML 3.2 to HTML 4 and HTML 4 to XHTML 1.

Spotting HTML5 Pages – Including the Google Home Page

Use of the Opera extension which embeds a small version of the HTML5 icon in the top right hand corner of the browser display is shown (click to see full-size version).

Whilst searching for a HTML5 Web site to use for this example I discovered that the Google search page now uses HTML, with the following HTML5 declaration included at the top of the page:

<doctype html>

I had previously thought that Google was very conservative in its use of HTML as, in light of its popularity, the page had to work of a huge range of browsers. Note, though, that on using W3C’s HTML validator, which includes experimental support for HTML5, I found that there were  still HTML errors, many of which were due to unescaped ‘&’ characters.  Some time ago it was suggested that the reason Google wasn’t implementing the simple changes in order to ensure that their home page validated was in order to minimise the bandwidth usage – which will be very important for globally popular site such as Google’s which, despite losing the top slot to Facebook in the US last  year, is still pretty popular :-). Hmm, if there are around 90 million Google users per day I wonder how much bandwidth is saved by using & rather than & in its home page and search results?

Posted in HTML, standards | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Web Accessibility, Institutional Repositories and BS 8878

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 January 2011

Review of Work on Accessibility and Institutional Repositories

Back in December 2006 I wrote a post on Accessibility and Institutional Repositories in which I suggested that it might be “unreasonable to expect hundreds in not thousands of legacy [PDF] resources to have accessibility metadata and document structures applied to them, if this could be demonstrated to be an expensive exercise of only very limited potential benefit“. I went on to suggest that there is a need to “explore what may be regarded as ‘unreasonable’ we then need to define ‘reasonable’ actions which institutions providing institutional repositories would be expected to take“.

A discussion on the costs and complexities of implementing various best practices for depositing resources in repositories continued in September 2008 as I described in a post on Institutional Repositories and the Costs Of Doing It Right, with Les Carr suggesting that “If accessibility is currently out of reach for journal articles, then it is another potential hindrance for OA“. Les was arguing that the costs of providing accessibility resources in institutional repositories is too great and can act as a barrier to maximising open access to institutional research activities.

I agree – but that doesn’t mean that we should abandon any thoughts of exploring ways of enhancing accessibility. A paper on “From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability” (available in PDF and HTML formats) described an approach called “Web Adaptability” which has the flexibility to account for a variety of contextual factors which is not possible with an approach based purely on conformance with WCAG guidelines. An accompanying blog post which summarised the paper described how the adaptability approach could be applied to institutional repositories”:

Adaptability and institutional repositories: Increasing numbers of universities are providing institutional repositories in order to enhance access to research publications and to preserve such resources for future generations. However many of the publications will be deposited as a PDF resource, which will often fail to conform with accessibility guidelines (e.g. images not being tagged for use with screen readers; text not necessarily being ‘linearised’ correctly for use with such devices, etc.). Rather than rejecting research publications which fail to conform with accessibility guidelines the Web adaptability approach would support the continued use and growth of institutional repositories, alongside an approach based on advocacy and education on ways of enhancing the accessibility of research publications, together with research into innovative ways of enhancing the accessibility of the resources.

The stakeholder approach to Web accessibility, originally developed by Jane Seale for use in an elearning context and described in a joint paper on Accessibility 2.0: People, Policies and Processes (available in PDF, MS Word and HTML formats) has been extended for use in a repository context. The approaches to engagement with some of the key stakeholders is given below:

Education: Training provided (a) for researchers to ensure they are made aware of importance of accessibility practices (including SEO benefits) and of techniques for implementing best practices and (b) for repository managers and policy makers to ensure that accessibility enhancements can be procured in new systems.

Feedback to developers: Ensure that suppliers and developers are aware of importance of accessibility issues  and enhancements featured in development plans.

Feedback to publishers: Ensure that publishers who provide templates are aware of importance of provision of accessible templates.

Auditing: Systematic auditing of papers in repositories to monitor extent of accessibility concerns and trends.

But is this approach valid?  Surely SENDA accessibility legislation requires conformance with WCAG guidelines? And if it is difficult to conform with such guidelines, surely the best approach is to keep a low profile?

BS 8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice

The BS 8878 Web accessibility Code of practice was launched in December 2010.  A summary of an accompanying Webinar about the Code of Practice was described in a post on BS 8878: “Accessibility has been stuck in a rut of technical guidelines” – and it was interesting to hear how the code of practice has been written in the context of the Equal Act which has replaced the DDA.  I was also very pleased to hear of the user-focus which is at the heart of the code of practice, and how mainstream approaches on best practices have moved away from what was described as a “rut of technical guidelines“.

Although the Code of Practice is not available online and costs £100 to purchase an accompanying set of guidelines was produced by Abilitynet which I have used in the following summary. Note I had to request a copy of these guidelines and I can no longer find the link to contact details to request copies. However AbilityNet’s complete set of guidelines can be purchased for £4,740!

It seems that there is a clear financial barrier to the implementation of new accessibility guidelines. In order to minimise the costs to higher education (which would approach a quarter of a million pounds if all UK Universities were to purchase a copy at the list price!)  I’ll give my interpretation of how the code of practice could be applied in the context of institutional repositories. But please note that this is very much an initial set of suggestions and should not be considered to be legal advice!

The heart of the BS 8878 document is a 16 step plan:

  1. Define the purpose.
  2. Define the target audience.
  3. Analyse the needs of the target audience.
  4. Note any platform or technology preferences.
  5. Define the relationship the product will have with its target audience.
  6. Define the user goals and tasks.
  7. Consider the degree of user experience the web product will aim to provide.
  8. Consider inclusive design & user-personalised approaches to accessibility.
  9. Choose the delivery platform to support.
  10. Choose the target browsers, operating systems & assistive technologies to support.
  11. Choose whether to create or procure the Web product.
  12. Define the Web technologies to be used in the Web product.
  13. Use Web guidelines to direct accessibility Web production
  14. Assure the Web products accessibility through production (i.e. at all stages).
  15. Communicate the Web product’s accessibility decisions at launch.
  16. Plan to assure accessibility in all post-launch updates to the product.

Note that Step 13, which covers use of WCAG guidelines, may previously have been regarded as the only or the most significant policy item. BS 8878 places these guidelines in a more appropriate context.

Using BS 8878 for Institutional Repositories

A summary of how I feel each of these steps might be applied to institutional repositories is given below.

  1. Define the purpose:
    The purposes of the repository service will be to enhance access to research papers and to support the long term preservation of the papers.
  2. Define the target audience:
    The main target audience will be a global research community.
  3. Analyse the needs of the target audience:
    Researchers may need to use assistive technologies to read PDFs.
  4. Note any platform or technology preferences:
    PDFs may not include accessibility support.
  5. Define the relationship the product will have with its target audience:
    The paper will be provided at a stable URI.
  6. Define the user goals and tasks:
    Users will use various search tools to find resource. Paper with then be read on screen or printed.
  7. Consider the degree of user experience the web product will aim to provide:
    Usability of the PDF document will be constrained by publisher’s template. Technical accessibility will be constrained by workflow processes.
  8. Consider inclusive design & user-personalised approaches to accessibility:
    Usability of the PDF document will be constrained by publisher’s template. Technical accessibility will be constrained by workflow processes.
  9. Choose the delivery platform to support:
    Aims to be available on devices with PDF support including mobile devices
  10. Choose the target browsers, operating systems & assistive technologies to support:
  11. Choose whether to create or procure the Web product:
    The service is provided by repository team.
  12. Define the Web technologies to be used in the Web product:
    HTML interface to PDF resources.
  13. Use Web guidelines to direct accessibility web production:
    HTML pages will seek to conform with WCAG 2.0 AA. PDF resources may not conform with PDF accessibility guidelines.
  14. Assure the Web products accessibility through production (i.e. at all stages):
    Periodic audits of PDF accessibility planned.
  15. Communicate the Web product’s accessibility decisions at launch:
    Accessibility statement to be published.
  16. Plan to assure accessibility in all post-launch updates to the product:
    Periodic reviews of technical developments.

Step 15 requires the publication of an accessibility statement, which “states in an easy to understand and non-technical way the accessibility features of the site and any known limitations“. This will be the aspect of the accessibility work which will be visible to users of the service. But what might such an accessibility statement cover?

Current Approaches to Accessibility Statements for Repositories

The first step to answering this question was to see what accessibility statements are currently provided for institutional repositories.  An analysis of the first page of results for a Google search for “repository accessibility statement” provided only a single example of an accessibility statement for an institutional repository. This was provided by UBIR, the University of Bolton Institutional Repository and appears to be a description of WCAG conformance for the repository Web pages rather than the contents of the Web site :

Standards Compliance

  1. All static pages follow U.S. Federal Government Section 508 Guidelines.
  2. All static pages follow priorities 1 & 2 guidelines of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  3. All static pages validate as HTML 4.01 Transitional.
  4. All static pages on this site use structured semantic markup. H2 tags are used for main titles, H3 and H4 tags for subtitles.

The Google results for other institutional repositories, including UEA and the University of Salford Informatics Research Institute Repository (USIR) were based on links to standard accessibility statements for the institutional Web site, with the statement for the University of Salford, for example, stating that:

The University of Salford strives to ensure that this website is accessible to everyone. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the accessibility of this site, or if you come across a page or resource that does not meet your access needs, please contact the, as we are continually striving to improve the experience for all of our visitors.

It seems that the contents of an institutional repository, the core purpose, after all,  of a repository, do not appear to have statements regarding the accessibility of such contents.  I will admit that I have only had a cursory exploration for such statements and would love to be proved wrong.  But for now let’s assume that the accessibility statement required for step 15 of BS 8878 will have to be produced from scratch.

A Possible Accessibility Statement For An Institutional Repository

Might the following be an appropriate statement for inclusion on an institutional repository?  Please note that I am not a repository manager so I don’t know if such a statement is realistic.  However I should also add that I have deposited 46 of my papers and related articles in the University of Bath repository and am aware of some of the difficulties in ensuring such items will conform with accessibility guidelines for PDFs, MS Word and HTML, the main formats used for depositing items.   Since it is likely to be difficult for the motivated individual author to address accessibility concerns for their own items, we cannot expect best practices to be applied for the 1,568 items deposited in 2010, never mind items deposited before then.

It is therefore not realistic to suggest that authors or repository managers should simply implement the advice on producing accessible PDFs provided by organisations such as JISC TechDis.  Rather the accessibility statement needs to be honest about the limitations of the service and difficulties which people with disabilities may have in accessing items hosted in institutional repositories.

The following draft accessibility statement is therefore suggested as providing a realistic summary regarding the accessibility of a typical repository service.

Statement Comments
The University’s repository service is an open-access information storage & retrieval system containing the university’s research findings and papers, openly and freely accessible to the research community and public. 

A full description of each item is provided, and where copyright regulations permit, the full-text of the research output is stored in the repository and fully accessible.

Items are deposited in the repository via a number of resources, including author self-deposit, deposit by authorised staff in departments and deposits by repository staff.

Note this has taken this definition of the purpose of the service from the UEA Digital Repository
Items are normally provided in PDF format although other formats such as MS Word or HTML may also be used. An audit of file formats may inform this statement.
Items are normally deposited in the format required by the publisher. Popular formats should be accessible using standard viewing tools. However some formats may require specialist browsers to be installed. An audit of file formats may inform this statement an provide information on how to install any specialist viewers.
Items may not conform to appropriate accessibility guidelines due to the devolved responsibilities for depositing items and the complexities of implementing the guidelines across the large number of items housed in the repository. If this is the case, it should be stated.
Future developments to the service will include an “Accessibility problem” button which will enable repository staff to be alerted to the scale of accessibility problems. This should only be included if it is intended to implement such a service.
Repository staff will work with the University Staff Development Unit to ensure that training is provided on ways of creating accessible documents which will be open to all staff and research students. This should only be included if it is intended to implement such training.
Repository staff will carry out periodic audits on the accessibility of repository items, monitor trends and act accordingly. This should only be included if it is intended to implement such a service. Note UKOLN have developed a trial application which could implement such a service which was described in a paper on Automated Accessibility Analysis of PDFs in Repositories.
The Web interface to repository content will conform with University Web site accessibility guidelines. This statement should taken form the policy for the main University’s Web site accessibility statement.

I hope this has provided something to initiative a discussion on ways in which institutional repositories can address accessibility issues which can provide barriers to researchers with disabilities and build on the successes repositories are having in addressing access barriers providing by copyright issues, complex business models and fragmented resources which may be difficult to find and retrieve.

Posted in Accessibility, Repositories | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Call for Use Cases: Social Uses and Other New Uses of Library Linked Data

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 January 2011

The W3C’s Library Linked Data Incubator Group has issued a “Call for Use Cases: Social uses and other new uses of Library Linked Data“. The call begins:

Do you use library-related data — like reading lists, library materials (articles, books, videos, cultural heritage or archival materials, etc), bookmarks, or annotations — on the Web and mobile Web?

Are you currently using social features in library-related information systems or sites, or plan to do so in the near future? We are particularly interested in uses that are related to or could benefit from the use of linked data.

The W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group is soliciting SOCIAL and EMERGENT use cases for library-related linked data:

  • What new or innovative uses do you see (or envision) integrating library and cultural heritage data into applications on the Web and in social media?
  • How are social features used in library-related information systems?
  • What are the emergent uses of library-related data on the Web and mobile Web?

How could linked data technology [1]:

  • enhance the use of library-related data in a social context?
  • contribute to systems for sharing, filtering, recommending, or machine reading?
  • support new uses we may not have envisioned or achieved yet?

Some examples have been discussed in this thread [4].

Please tell us more by filling in the questionnaire below and sending it back to us or to, preferably before February 15th, 2011 (note the original email incorrectly had 2010).

The information you provide will be influential in guiding the activities the Library Linked Data Incubator Group will undertake to help increase global interoperability of library data on the Web. The information you provide will be curated and published on the group wikispace at [3].

We understand that your time is precious, so please don’t feel you have to answer every question. Some sections of the templates are clearly marked as optional. However, the more information you can provide, the easier it will be for the Incubator Group to understand your case. And, of course, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any trouble answering our questions.

Editorial guidance on specific points is provided at [2], and examples are available at [3].

The message then goes on to provide the template for the use cases.

I would think that there be a range of relevant examples of such use cases based on institutional developments and  JISC-funded project and service developments. It would be very useful, I feel, if the UK higher education sector were to contribute to this call as this can help to ensure that W3C’s Linked Data work will be informed by the experiences and requires of our sector.  I should add that I have come across examples of standardisation activities in the past which have reflected US approaches and which do are not easily implemented for UK working practices.

If you are involved in such Library-related Linked Data activities I would encourage you to read the original requests and respond accordingly.  Feel free to leave a comment here if you have contributed a use case.

Posted in Linked Data, W3C | Leave a Comment »

Risk Management Calculator For Open Content

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 January 2011

Approaches to Risk Management in Innovation

In the past I have argued the need for a risk management approach to the exploitation of innovative services. This approach formed the basis of an invited talk I gave on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” at the Bridging Worlds 2008 conference held at the National Library of Singapore. The paper I presented was subsequently published in the Program journal: “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends“. Note that this paper is available in MS Word, PDF and HTML formats from the University of Bath repository.

The paper focussed primarily on the risks associated with use of Cloud services.  However there are associated legal, copyright and related risks which need to be considered.  Professor Charles Oppenheim contributed to a paper on “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web”  which built on this previous work and outlined a risk assessment and risk management approach for copyright risks. Again this paper is available in MS Word, PDF and HTML formats).

These papers argued the need for a risk-based approach and proposed a framework for understanding and documenting the risks, understanding the associated risks of doing nothing (e.g. missed opportunities), the associated costs and ways of minimising risks which have been identified.

This framework, which is intended to support the discussions and production of  documentation for development activities, acknowledges that there is a context to such decision-making, with organisations likely to have differing perspectives on risks: a government organisation is likely to be more risk-averse, for example, than an innovation company funded with venture capital. In addition different contexts of use  will require different approaches to risk assessment: whilst many users  will be willing to use a Social Web service to host photographs and videos, the same users may not wish to see their payroll system out-sourced in a similar fashion!

The JISC-Funded Risk Management Calculator

However our work did not provide a tool to support these processes. I was therefore pleased to receive an email today which announced a “New licensing tool for open content“. The announcement stated that

Licensing is complex and the more open you make content under an end user licence the greater the risk if you havent sought the necessary permissions. In partnership with the Higher Education Academy, JISC is funding a support project on IPR and licensing issues for Open Educational Resources. The latest addition to their suite of support resources is a new tool – the Risk Management Calculator  designed to help understand levels of risk associated with publishing open educational materials.   Typical examples of this might include materials which are still in copyright, but for which the rights holders cannot be traced or are unknown (so called Orphan Works).  The calculator helps those relatively new to licensing to make the right decisions when creating open content.

Naomi Korn, the project director for this work,  described how:

The Risk Management Calculator is a good example of the way the OER IPR support project team works: a marriage of copyright and licensing expertise with a group of immensely talented staff from the technology enhanced learning team at Plymouth University creating tools that users can use to help them understand and do copyright and licensing better.

The risk management calculator is available as a Web-based tool and an example of its used is illustrated below:

I think this is a valuable tool which should help to embed a risk management culture in development activities and move away from the simplicities of policy-based approaches  which can hinder innovation at a time in which rights issues can be complex and gaining permission can be costly and time-consuming, if  not impossible.

What are the risks, I wondered, if I wished to publish a video of a conference in which members of the audience may be identifiable?  It might be expensive and time-consuming to identify such people, track down contact details and seek permission. In such cases a risk management approach would appear appropriate. However using such a video and providing a Creative Commons licence for the resource will give a medium risk rating of between 180 and 450, although not assigning a Creative Commons licence would give a low risk of 90.

Now when I look to reuse photographs, for example, I check to see whether any identifiable individual might be embarrassed by the photo (are they picking their nose) – so there additional contextual issues which the calculator doesn’t address.  But seeking to include such factors in a tool would be likely to make the tool cumbersome to use as well as costly to develop.  So I welcome the release of this tool, whilst providing a suggestion that the decisions need to be taken by a human and not determined by the rating provided by this tool.

Note it is also worth making the point that the selection of a Creative Commons licence is likely, in many cases,  to be more risks than not assigning such a licence.  It would, I feel, be unfortunate if this tool acted as a barrier to greater use of Creative Commons.

Posted in openness | 2 Comments »

Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 January 2011


At a time of flux and upheaval in the higher education sector there is a need to be able to understand how institutions are responding to a changed environment. There may be a particular need to understand how networked services are being used which may have previously been regarded, in some areas, as inappropriate for institutional use. This is particularly true of Facebook which has been the subject of criticism for being a ‘walled-garden‘ and for what may be regarded as a cavalier approach to privacy.

But are institutions now making significant use of Facebook because of the benefits it is perceived to bring, such as the large ability to provide marketing to large numbers of users and the ability to embed other services within an environment which many users may be familiar with? Anecdotally we are hearing suggestions of the benefits which Facebook can provide,  such as the recent tweet from Stuart Brown which stated that  “10 course registrations attributable to OU FB apps Course Profiles and My OU Story“.

In order to provide a better understanding of how UK higher education institutions may be using Facebook a brief survey of official usage by Russell Group Universities has been carried out. The aim is to ensure that evidence is available to inform discussions on policies and practices.

Profiling Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities

A recent post summarised “Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities“. The twenty Russell Group Universities have also been used for a survey of institutional use of Facebook. There have been suggestions that a more comprehensive survey across all UK Universities would be useful. Whilst this may be true it would be resource-intensive to carry out such a survey. The Russell Group Universities has therefore been selected partly because of the geographical diversity of these institutions, which includes institutions based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition since these institutions describe themselves as “the 20 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector” we might expect the institutions tom be taking a leading role in exploiting social media to support their activities and provide examples of best practices which the wider community can learn from.

The survey of institutional Facebook usage by Russell Group Universities was carried out on 11 January 2011. The survey used Google to find an official institutional Facebook presence. Note in a number of cases no obvious institutional Facebook page could be found (note that Facebook pages for departments were not included).

A summary of the numbers of Facebook users who ‘liked’ the institution’s page is given, together with the numbers of ‘favourite pages’ the institution provides.   A list of additional pages available via the tabbed interface is also provided.

The results are given below.

Institution/Facebook page and Description Type Nos. of Likes Additional Pages (in addition to Wall and Info)
1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb name: unibirmingham 

Description: “The official page for the University of Birmingham.”

Branded URL 8,558 Welcome, Heroes, Events, Flickr, YouTube
2 Institution: University of Bristol
Fb name: 2202911691 

Description: “For all University of Bristol students, past, present and future.”

Facebook group 2,186 Photos, Discussions

NOTE Appears full of spam.

3 Institution: University of Cambridge
Fb name: 

Description: “We are one of the world’s oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Cambridge comprises 31 Colleges and over 150 departments, faculties, schools and other institutions”

Branded short URL 58,392 YouTube, Photos, Twitter, House Rules, Notes
4 Institution: Cardiff University
Fb name: cardiffuni 

Description: “We want you to enjoy using our pages. To improve your experience, commercial posts & URLs are welcome in ‘Discussions’ but we will remove at our discretion anything we think could bring the University into disrepute. Thank you.”

Branded URL 20,035 About Us, Quick Links, Discussions, Photos, Events
5 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh

No official institutional page found (The Edinburgh University page seems to be a student page and the wall contains spam)

6 Institution: University of Glasgow

No official institutional page found

7 Institution: Imperial College
Fb name: imperialcollegelondon 

Description:  “Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research.”

Branded short URL 5,490 Photos, Discussions, Boxes, Video, Events
8 Institution: King’s College London
Fb name: Kings-College-London/54237866946 

Description: None

Facebook page 2,047 Photos, Boxes
9 Institution: University of Leeds

No official institutional page found. A University of Leeds Latest Update application is available but this does not seem to be being used.

10 Institution: University of Liverpool
Fb name: University-of-Liverpool/293602011521 

Description: None

Facebook page 2,811 Photos, Discussions
11 Institution: LSE
Fb name: LSE/6127898346 

Description: “The official page of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This page will be updated with recent news from the School as well as information about forthcoming public events.”

Facebook page 22,798
12 Institution: University of Manchester
Fb name: University-Of-Manchester/365078871967 

Description: “Britain’s largest single-site university with a proud history of achievement and an ambitious agenda for the future.”

Facebook page 1,978 Photos, Discussions, Events, Video
13 Newcastle University

No official institutional page found

14 Institution: University of Nottingham
Fb name: The-University-of-Nottingham/130981200144 

Description: None

Facebook page 3,588 Photos, Boxes
15 Institution: University of Oxford
Fb name: 

Description: “This is the official University of Oxford Facebook page. Our website is at

Branded URL 137,395 Boxes, Photos
16 Institution: Queen’s University Belfast

No official institutional page found

17 Institution: University of Sheffield
Fb name: theuniversityofsheffield 

Description: “Founded in 1905, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities with an outstanding record in both teaching and research.”

Branded URL 6,646 Photos, Events, YouTube, Discussions, Videos, RSS/Blog
18 Institution: University of Southampton
Fb name: Southampton-University/77399508053 

Description: None

(Note as described in a comment the unisouthampton Facebook page was recently created and currently has 71 ‘likes’. This note added on 21 Jan 2010)

Facebook page 3,328 Photos, Boxes
19 Institution: University College London
Fb name: UCL/92637159209 

Description: “UCL is London’s leading multidisciplinary university, with 8,000 staff and 22,000 students. UCL was the first university in England to welcome students of any class, race or religion, and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men.”

Facebook page 977 Photos, Discussions
20 Institution: University of Warwick
Fb name: warwickuniversity 

Description: “The official Facebook page for the University of Warwick. This Facebook page was created and is maintained by the University of Warwick Communications Office and is the only ‘official’ university page.”

Branded URL 8,535 Discussions, Photos, Video, YouTube, Events
TOTAL 286,169


A summary of the data collected is given below:

  • Nos. of institutions with branded Facebook URL: 7
  • Nos. of institutions with Facebook page: 7
  • Nos. of institutions with Facebook group: 1
  • Nos. of institutions with no easily found institutional Facebook presence: 5
  • Nos. of institutions with neglected (or unofficial) institutional Facebook presence: 1
  • Range of ‘likes':  2,047 – 137,395

Related Surveys

The popularity of Facebook usage at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge has been confirmed by a recent post on “Top 10 of Social Media in HE” published by the Science Guide blog. The Science Guide survey “conducted research and created a Top 10 list of [European] HE of the best in social media and presents three prestigious universities that lose out in the race for Twitter, Facebook and co“.

The survey went on to point out that:

UK universities are by far outperforming other countries in communicating via social media. More than 60% of all university twitter followers are connected to UK institutions. They also account for 42,4% of all Facebook members.

In addition the “institutions that are widely regarded as elite and prestigious in Europe …  are ranked highest in quality of research, but … still have to find their way into the 21st century” due to very limited or no use of Social Web service did not include any UK Universities.

Such comments suggest that UK Universities should be pleased with ways in which Social Web services are being integrated into existing services. But what additional observations can be made from the survey results published in this blog?


How important might Facebook be to institutions?  I heard that at the recent Learning Without Frontiers conference it was suggested that Facebook users find the management capabilities of Facebook valuable as it makes it more difficult for content, such as embarrassing comments and photos, to escape into the wild.  Perhaps the ‘walled garden’ nature of Facebook is being regarded as a positive aspect of the service.

But is Facebook something which is only useful as a marketing  tool to attract new students or might it have a more significant role to play?  And rather than a one-way marketing channel might it have a role to play in facilitating discussions and debate and, if so,  might Facebook prove useful for internal discussions as well as engaging with new students?

I suspect the answers to such questions will be answered by observing patterns of usage, with, despite Facebook’s growth, the service is not liked by many who engage in actively discussions on blogs.  But looking at evidence of evidence of how Facebook is being used, rather than speculating on the relevance of Diaspora “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network” I feel it is worth looking at the approaches being taken by Cambridge University, with its page on “House Rules” and Cardiff University, who, from the information provided on their Facebook page appear to be positive about the benefits the service can provide.

Is it realistic to argue against the popularity of Facebook (142,176,215 unique visitors according to and for institutions, at a time of cuts, to promote alternatives? Or should we be making use of the service to support a variety of institutional activities?   If you feel the latter is a decision  we need to make (and many of the Russell Group Universities already have) then in order to ensure Facebook is being used effectively there is a need to share emerging best practices. Wouldn’t you agree?

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 21 Comments »

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 January 2011

Previous Surveys of Institutional Use of Twitter

Back in July 2009 Liz Azyan published a UK University Twitterleague which listed the number of followers for various official University Twitter accounts. In September 2009 Liz followed this with a List Of UK University Twitter Accounts.

In May 2010 Duncan Hull published a post entitled The University of Twitter, UK: A Quick Survey. which summarised Twitter usage by the 20 Russell Group Universities – these are universities which:

represent the 20 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

As Duncan pointed out “they are exactly the kind of places you would expect to be embracing and experimenting with new technology“. In response to Duncan’s post Paul Dobson provided further analysis of Twitter usage by Russell Group Universities.

Finally I should mention a recent article on “Top 10 of Social Media in HE” published by the Science Guide blog which provides a summary of Twitter (and Facebook) usage across leading European Universities. This post points out that “Having a closer look at how universities from different countries perform in communicating via Twitter and Facebook, it is easy to see that Great Britain dominates the ranking” :-)

Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities

Building on such previous work, a survey of institutional use of Twitter by Russell Group University Web sites was carried out on Monday 10th January 2011. The survey recorded the number of followers, users followed and tweets published. In addition links to the Tweetstats service are given which provide additional statistical information on Twitter usage, together with a summary of the average number of tweets posts per month. A record was also made of the location and biographical details of the institutional accounts. This information is published in the following table.

 Ref. No. Institution Nos. of Followers Following Tweets Tweetstats
1 University of Birmingham: @unibirmingham
Name: Birmingham Uni
Location: Birmingham, UK
Web: http://www.birmin…
Bio: News and events from the University of Birmingham
4,681 222 1,011 Tweetstats for University of Birmingham:Average 40 tweets per month
2 University of Bristol: @bristoluniName: Bristol University
Location: Bristol, England
Web: http://www.bristo…
Bio: News, events and general announcements from the University of Bristol
4,040   33 1,164 Tweetstats for University of Bristol:Average 91 tweets per month
3 University of Cambridge: @cambridge_uniName: Cambridge University
Location: Cambridge, England
Bio: News and Events from the University of Cambridge
11,759 211   923 Tweetstats for University of Cambridge:Average 43 tweets per month
4 Cardiff University: @cardiffuni
Name: Cardiff University
Location: Cardiff, UK
Web: http://www.cardif…
6,764  43   862 Tweetstats for Cardiff University:Average 25 tweets per month
5 University of Edinburgh: @uniofedinburgh
Name: Edinburgh University
Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Bio: Official news and events from The University of Edinburgh
4,092 177   666 Tweetstats for University of Edinburgh:Average 25 tweets per month
6 University of Glasgow: @glasgowuni
Glasgow University
Location: Scotland
Web: http://www.glasgo…
Bio: Official news and events from the University of Glasgow
6,007 122   716 Tweetstats for University of Glasgow:Average 26 tweets per month
7 Imperial College: @imperialcollegeName: Imperial College
Location: London
Web: http://www3.imper…
Bio: Imperial on Twitter – follow us for campus alerts and daily highlights. Send your tweet tipoffs to, or talk direct via @imperialcollege
6,210 2,248  889 Tweetstats for Imperial CollegeAverage 42 tweets per month
8 King’s College London: @kingscollegelonName: King’s CollegeLondon
Location: London UK
Bio: News from King’s College London. King’s is a multi-faculty research-led institution and one of the world’s top 25 universities.
865  139  192 Tweetstats for King’s College London:Average 21 tweets per month
9 University of Leeds: @universityleeds
University of Leeds
Location: Leeds, UK
Web: http://www.leeds….
3,161  188  573 Tweetstats for University of Leeds:Average 44 tweets per month
10 University of Liverpool: @liverpooluni:
Obsolete Account
1,450 0 1
10 University of Liverpool: @livuni
Name: Uni of Liverpool
Location: Liverpool, UK
Bio: This is the official Twitter channel of the University of Liverpool. Any questions? Tweet us!
2,900 405 1,352 Tweetstats for University of Liverpool:Average 50 tweets per month;
11 LSE:
No central single Twitter account found. However several official accounts exists e.g. @LSEpublicevents and @LSENews

12 University of Manchester:
No central single Twitter account found
13 Newcastle University:
No central single Twitter account found
14 University of Nottingham: @uniofnottinghamName: Nottingham Uni
Location: Nottingham
Web: http://www.nottin…
Bio: A twitter channel for Nottingham University
3,179 1,850 1,662 Tweetstats for University of NottinghamAverage 74 tweets per month
15 University of Oxford: @uniofoxford
Oxford University
Bio: Twitter stream of the University of Oxford
12,265    48  380 Tweetstats for University of OxfordAverage 74 tweets per month
16 Queen’s University Belfast: @queensubelfast
Name: Queen’s University
Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
Bio: Queen’s has a record of academic achievement which stretches back more than 150 years. It offers a world class portfolio of research & educational opportunities
1,127    91  369 Tweetstats for Queen’s University BelfastAverage 23 tweets per month
17 University of Sheffield: @sheffielduni
:Sheffield University
Location:Sheffield, UK
Web: http://www.sheffi…
Bio: Founded in 1905, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities with an outstanding record in both teaching and research.
5,869 5,089  744 Tweetstats for University of Sheffield:Average 30 tweets per month
18 University of Southampton: @southamptonnewsName: Uni of Southampton
Location: University Road, Southampton
Web: http://www.southa…
Bio: The official twitter channel for the University of Southampton.
1,876   302  796 Tweetstats for University of Southampton:Average 30 tweets per month
19 University College London: @uclnewsName: UCL News
Location: London
Bio: News from UCL – London’s Global University
2,523   190  940 Tweetstats for University College London:Average 44 tweets per month
20 University of Warwick: @warwickuni
Warwick University
Location: United Kingdom
Web: http://www.warwic…
6,334   715 1,137 Tweetstats for University of Warwick:Average 40 tweets per month
TOTAL 83,562 12,073 14,376

Note the @lsepublicevents (which is described as “Free public lectures and debates at LSE, with high profile speakers from government, politics, business, academia and civil society.” was not included in this list of institutional accounts as his seems to be a departmental Twitter account. However, for the record, this Twitter account had 10,542 f0llowers, was following 1,162 account and had posted 3,470 tweets.


Institutional use of Twitter is relatively new, so best practices are not yet well established. Surveys of Twitter usage can help to identify patterns of usage from which in may be possible to observe emerging best practices.

Profile Information

The information on the Twitter profile can help to understand how institutions regard their use of Twitter.

  • Institutions which make it clear that the Twitter account is an official channel or is providing official news : Universities of Edinburgh and Southampton.
  • Institutions which define the scope of the Twitter account as covering news and/or events: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, KCL and UCL.
  • Institutions which provide marketing information in their Twitter profile: KCL, Queen’s University Belfast and Sheffield.

Location Information

A variety of location information was provided in the profiles:

  • City and UK: Seven Eight instances: Birmingham, UK; Cardiff, UK; Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Liverpool, UK; London UK; Leeds, UK; Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK; Sheffield, UK
  • City and country: Two instances: Bristol, England; Cambridge, England
  • Country only: Two instances: Scotland; United Kingdom
  • City only: Four instances: London; Liverpool; Nottingham; London
  • Road and city: One instance: University Road, Southampton
  • No location: One instance: University of Oxford

Location information could potentially be used by automated harvesting tools or by location-sensitive applications. Note it was also noted that non of the Twitter accounts provided location information in a machine-readable format.


The following institutions provided links to their institutional Web site from their Twitter profile:

  • Links to home page: Universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and Warwick and Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial College and KCL
  • Link to news page: UCL
  • Link to Study page: Liverpool
  • Link to about/help information: None

Note that links to an institutional Web site from a popular service such as Twitter may help in enhancing an institution’s Google ranking. [Note as described in a comment to this post, this is unlikely to happen due to use of the NOFOLLOW attribute.]

Also note that a link to a help page could provide information on how the Twitter account is being used.


A summary showing the range of various Twitter metrics is given below:

  • Numbers of Twitter followers: The numbers ranged from 865 -12,265.
  • Numbers of Twitter users followed: The numbers ranged from 33-5,089.
  • Numbers of tweets: The numbers ranged from 192-1,167.
  • Average numbers of tweet per month: The numbers ranged from 23-91.
  • Numbers of institutions not apparently using an official Twitter account: Three institutions to not seem to have an official Twitter account and one institution is not using what seem to be an official Twitter account.

Note that:

  • The number Twitter followers may be some indication of value. However this number is likely to be influenced by the size of the institution:
  • An institution may wish to develop a policy on following other Twitter users. There is no need to follow other Twitter users, especially if the Twitter account is used for one-way broadcasting of information. If Twitter accounts are followed this will allow direct messages (DMs) to be sent between the institution and the user. Also not that it is possible to configure a Twitter account so that new followers are automatically followed back.
  • The number of tweets posted will be affected by the date the Twitter account was created. The average number of tweets posted per month may be a more useful way of comparing usage patterns across institutions.

Emerging Best Practices

The following suggestions are proposed for best practices for institutional Twitter accounts:

  • An appropriate profile should be provided. This could be used, for example, to clarify the status of the Twitter account, the scope of usage and to promote the host institution.
  • The location of the host institution should be provided, in text and as geo-located metadata, in order for tweets to be available to location-aware services.
  • Twitter profiles should provide links back to appropriate pages on the institution’s Web site.

Note that it is probably also desirable to provide a policy on use of an institutional Twitter account. It may be desirable to link to the policy from the Twitter profile, so that users can easily discover the scope of the Twitter account, policies on following users and policies on responding to messages.

Also note that this post does not seek to address the question as to whether an institution should have an official Twitter account. That question, and related issues such as the purpose of the account, who should manage it and how it should be resourced, will be very dependent on institutional factors, including issues such as the relationship with other communication channels, possibly including Facebook.

Finally it should be added that it was observed that many of the institutional Twitter accounts had branded the Twitter home page, some with just a background image but others, such as Cardiff University, with additional textual information and link information (though this is not hyperlinked). However it should be noted that information provided on the Twitter background will not be available to those who use a dedicated Twitter client so there will be a need to provide relevant information in the Twitter bio field.

Your Feedback

I’d welcome feedback and comments on this survey and the accompanying suggestions. Is the data I’m provided correct? Are the suggested emerging best practices appropriate? Are there other suggestions which could be provided? I’m always welcome snapshots of Twitter statistics for other institutions (from the UK and beyond), although note that in order to provide meaningful comparisons, data should be provided for an official institutional Twitter account and not for departmental accounts.

NOTE: Information on the official University of Liverpool Twitter account has been received (which could not be found easily on Google). The table and summary information have been updated. Also note that the totals in the table were collated after the post was initially published.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Twitter | 29 Comments »

Evidence of Personal Usage Of Social Web Services

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 January 2011

Gathering Evidence on Personal Use of Social Web Services

A recent blog post on “My information consumption habits or how having a smartphone changed the way I work” by Aaron Tay alerted me to tools which can be used to provide an insight into personal usage of various collaborative and communications tools. As the title of Aaron’s post suggests such analyses can help to confirm, or perhaps identify, changes in personal working practices.

Evidence of My Use of Twitter

We may think that we know how we use various tools, but might we be mis-remembering? The MyFirstTweet service tells me that I posted my first tweet on 14 March 2007 : a boring post about filling in my expenses – just like everyone else, I had no idea of what Twitter was about and what benefits it might provide. However I might like to think that I quickly spotted Twitter’s potential and have been a regular user since then. However the Tweetstats service gives a different picture:

Interpreting the Evidence

It seems I made little use of Twitter during 2007 (peaking at 25 tweets in August 2007). It was only in January and February 2008 that I made significant use of Twitter, with 105 and 130 tweets. But this was not sustainable and there were no tweets in the following three months (although this, I subsequently discovered, was incorrect due, I suspect, to a failure for the tweets to have been archived).

Ignoring the uncertainties of my Twitter usage over the missing period it seems that regular Twitter postings began in July 2008 – and from the archive of my tweets on the Backupmytweets service I discovered that this seems to have been when use of Twitter at events and event hashtags was starting to take off in the JISC environment: “AT the JISC Innovation Forum, Keele Univ., listening to Sarah Porter. #jif08“.  And looking at the Twitter statistics for my colleague Paul Walk I see a similar trend, with little usage in 2007, but growth beginning in February 2008, around the time that I started to make significant use of the service.

Incidentally there was a gap in the data for September – November 2008 which made me suspect that my apparent lack of usage from April – June 2008 was due to a glitch in the system, and this was confirming by looking at my Twitter archives from which I can see that I had posted to Twitter during these months. Indeed April 2008 was the month I attended the Museums and the Web 2008 conference and first started to make intensive use of twitter at and event, as illustrated by my social tweet after arriving at the conference. So having started writing this post based on an assumption of the importance of gathering evidence I’m now having to flag the fact that evidence can be flawed (I assume the missing data might be due to the teething problems Twitter servers experienced due to growth in usage).

Since 2008 I have tweeted every month. But this evidence suggests that for over a year after first using Twitter I hadn’t found a particular use for the service. Perhaps this is likely to be the case for other social networking services – there is a need for there to be a significant user community before the benefits can be appreciated. Or, alternatively, perhaps there was a need for better Twitter tools to be developed. Initially I made use of the Web interface, but in July 2008 I was mainly using the Twhirl desktop client and by November 2008 TweetDeck was my preferred desktop client (and, from the archive of my tweets I found that on 8 July 2008 I commented thatTweetdeck 0.15.1 beta is much better than 0.15 :-)“).

Reflections on Implications For Use of Other Social Web Services

The above graph suggests that in the case of Twitter it was only after two years of first using the service that it became embedded in my working practices. I wonder if this pattern will be reflected in my uses of other Social Web services. And if this pattern is replicated across other early adopters of services what might the implications be for the service providers? Perhaps such patterns will demonstrate the importance of building a critical mass of users quickly and the need to ensure that funding from venture capitalists is available to fund the service while its usage if still low?  But what of developments funded in the public sector? Is a two year funding cycle which may be typical long enough to build up sufficient momentum to demonstrate the value of services whose effectiveness may be dependent on large numbers of users?

Posted in Evidence, Finances, Twitter | 9 Comments »

Scridb Seems to be Successful in Enhancing Access to Papers

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 January 2011

I first wrote about the Scribd document repository service back in March 2007 in a post entitled “Scribd – Doing For Documents What Slideshare Does For Presentations“. Since then I have uploaded a number of papers to the service.  But almost three years on, how has the service developed?

My original post summarised some of the benefits of the service but highlighted a number of concerns:

Has Scribd raised the bar in users’ expectations for digital repositories? In some respects, I feel it has. However there are concerns which need to be recognised:

  • Poor quality resources which are hosted: there is no guarantee of the quality of the resources which are hosted on Scribd. And there are copyrighted publications (including those from O’Reilly) which have already been uploaded.
  • Sustainability of the service: As will all of these type of services, there is the question as to whether such services are sustainable. Techcrunch reported on 6 March 2007 that the service “is coming out of private beta this morning with a fresh Angel investment of $300K on top of their original Y Combinator nest egg of $12,000.“This may keep the service running for a short time, but will it be around in the medium to long term? And what will happen if copyright holders, such as O’Reilly, take the service to court for their misuse of their copyrighted resources (as Viacomm have recently done to YouTube).
  • Lack of a interoperable resource discovery architecture: The approach taken by Scribd is not interoperable with the approach being taken by the JISC development community, which is looking to support the development of distributed interoperable digital repository services which make use of OAI-PMH.

Three years later the service is still available.  And looking at the statistics for access to documents I uploaded to the service, it also seems very popular:  during 2010 there were no fewer than 11,729 views of the 15 papers I uploaded to the service, an average of 32 per day.  As you can see from the graph below there were two significant peaks in the year, when there were over 800 in a day.  If I remove these outliers by viewing the statistics for the last six months of the year I find 4,215 views in the six month period, giving an average of  24 per day.

In comparison looking at the usage statistics for my 26 papers hosted in the University of Bath Opus repository I find that there have been 2,505 views during 2010.

Hmm, the repository has almost twice as many papers and resources in the repository are linked to from the UKOLN Web site and  from posts on this blog.  The repository also benefits from being part of a larger repository ecology, with access available from services such as OpenDOAR and MIMAS’s Institutional Repository Search.  And yet the Scribd service seems to get significantly more visits.

Looking at a specific instance, my most recent paper, “Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web“, was presented at the Online Information 2010 at the end of November. This paper was uploaded to the University of Bath repository and was mentioned in a blog post on “Availability of Paper on “Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web”” which linked to the copy in the repository.    The paper was also uploaded to Scribd – and this was also mentioned in the blog post (and was, indeed, embedded in the post). The usage statistics to date (10 January 2011) are 53 views in the University of Bath repository and 447 views on Scribd.

Scribd also provides a  easy-to-use interface for viewing usage statistics for individual papers. As can be see from the image, there was a peak (of 181 views) on the day the blog post was published with a smaller peak (102 views)  three days previously.  The total number of views from embedded reads (i.e. people who read the blog post and may – or may not -have actually read the embedded paper) is 349. This leaves 160 views of the paper within the Scribd environment – over three times as many views as received for the copy in the institutional repository.

Whilst I can’t help but think that the usage statistics are flawed, I don’t have any evidence of this. I would appreciate suggestions why the views seem so large. But I also suspect that there will be views from people who were searching for information provided in the papers – and if only 10% of the views came from satisfied users that would be on par with those viewing the larger number of papers in the institutional repository (which is also likely, of course, to be inflated by readers using  Google to view papers which aren’t of interest).

Now Scribd does seem to host, how shall I put it, a wide variety of types of documents, not all of which are of relevance to researchers. But the service does have a variety of features which can help to enhance access to documents such as links to Social Web services such as Twitter and Facebook for promoting documents of interest to one’s professional network and the ability for documents to be embedded in other Web sites.

So if one wishes to maximise the impact of one’s ideas will the institutional repository or a commercial service such as Scribd provide the best solution? Or perhaps one should use both approaches?  And if you feel that researchers will prefer to use a more research-friendly environment than is provided by Scridb, remember than researchers, like everyone else, use Google, which will also find resources of dubious scholarly relevance for searches.

Posted in Repositories, Web2.0 | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Review of this Blog’s Usage in 2010

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 January 2011

I recently carried out a reader survey for this blog.  But in addition to such valuable anecdotal feedback I also feel it is useful to complement such surveys with objective metrics which provides answers to questions such as “How was this blog used in 2010?“; “ What were the most popular posts?” and “Where did the traffic come from? “.

I’m pleased to say that for blogs hosted at, an automated summary was sent to blog owners recently. Here is a summary of their report. Note that while I’m unconvinced of the merits of the images I felt it was particularly interesting to see that “the top referring sites in 2010 were, Google Reader,,, and“.  A few days ago TechCrunch published a post entitled “Twitter And Facebook Really Are Killing RSS (At Least For TechCrunch Visitors)” It seems that a significant volume of traffic to the UK Web Focus blog is also being delivered by Twitter and Facebook.  Is  this a matter of concern, as suggested by the title of the TechCruch article?  I’ll explore this issue in a forthcoming post.

By the way if you search for the opening words in the message: “The stats helper monkeys at mulled over” you’ll be able to make comparisons with other blogs which have published the message from

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 87,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 194 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 848 posts. There were 148 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was November 16th with 811 views. The most popular post that day was University Web Sites Cost Money!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were, Google Reader,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for facebook short url, tokbox vs skype, doctor who tardis, youtube uk, and best university websites.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


University Web Sites Cost Money! November 2010
15 comments and 3 Likes on


Have You Claimed Your Personal And Institutional Facebook Vanity URL? June 2009


iPad, Flash, HTML 5 and Standards February 2010


Best UK University Web Sites – According to Sixth Formers August 2010
10 comments and 1 Like on,


The ‘Cities Visited’ Facebook Application June 2007

Posted in Blog, Evidence | Leave a Comment »

Three CSS Publications Including Last call for CSS 2.1

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 January 2011

The W3C have recently published three CSS publications: a last call for comments on the CSS 2.1 specification and first drafts of Snapshot 2010 and Writing Modes Level 3.

These three documents will be of interest to different groups. The CSS 2.1 document will be of interest to those who wish to see the final documentation of approaches which have been deployed, in order to ensure that widely implemented features are thoroughly and unambiguously documented (“CSS 2.1 corrects a few errors in CSS2 and adds a few highly requested features which have already been widely implemented. But most of all CSS 2.1 represents a “snapshot” of CSS usage: it consists of all CSS features that are implemented interoperably at the date of publication“).

The CSS Snapshot 2010 document is a brief document which collects together into one definition the specs that together form the current state of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This will be of interest to those who like to be able to see the big picture and the relationships and dependencies.

In contrast the CSS Writing Modes Module Level 3 specification is likely to be of interest to those with specific interests in bidirectional and vertical text.

Last Call comments are welcome until 7 January 2011.

Posted in standards | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Link Checking For Old Web Sites

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 January 2011

Web sites rot. Over time they’ll start to break. Not only will increasing numbers of links to external resources start to break but you may also find that the functionality provided within the Web site may start to break. This may be a problem if Web sites are still being used but are no longer maintained. But what should be done?

From 1999-2000 UKOLN was a member of the EU-funded EXPLOIT project and provided the Exploit Interactive Web magazine. This was followed, from, 2000-2003 by the Cultivate Interactive Web magazine. Since the funding ceased a link check of the Web sites has been carried out annually with the findings published and summaries of any problems documented. Only internal links are checked and the surveys helped us to identify and fix a number of problems which occurred when the Web site was migrated from a Windows NT service to an Apache server running on a Unix box. We have also observed a small number of broken links to third party Web site usage services, as illustrated below.

Running the annual link check and documenting the findings takes about 10 minutes. The Exploit Interactive and Cultivate Interactive Web sites are technically quite simple, with little integration with third party services. However as Web sites increasingly make use of content and services provided by third parties there are dangers that such dependencies will cause problems. So perhaps auditing of such services, including project Web sites which are no longer being funded, will become increasingly important. The Exploit Interactive

Alternatively you could argue that after a period of time such Web sites should be deleted. We recommended to the EU that project Web sites should be expected to continue to be hosted for at least three years after the funding had expired. We also suggested that this should be a minimum and that organisations should try to continue to host such Web sites for ten years after the funding has finished. Since the final issue of the Exploit Interactive ejournal was published in October 2000 we have achieved that goal. Should we now delete the Web site? Doing so might save ten minutes a year in checking that the Web site is still functioning, but would mean that articles on a number of EU-funded projects would be lost, including the following which were published in the final issue:

  • ELVIL 2000: Ingrid Cartwell and Magnus Enzell introduce the prototype for the ELVIL 2000 Project, an Academic Portal for European Law and Politics.
  • EQUINOX: Following on from an earlier article in Exploit Interactive, Monica Brinkley provides an update on the EQUINOX project, a Library Performance Measurement and Quality Management System.
  • ILSES: Meinhard Moschner and Repke de Vries describe the development of a specialised networked digital library which integrates publication retrieval and survey data extraction.
  • LIBECON 2000: David Fuegi, John Sumsion and Phillip Ramsdale discuss the LIBECON2000 Project and its Millennium Report.
  • TECUP: Paul Greenwood and Martina Lange-Rein on TECUP, a meta project which analyses practical mechanisms for rights acquisition for the distribution, archiving and use of electronic products.
  • VERITY: Alexandra Papazoglou gives a final report on Project Verity: Virtual and Electronic Resources for Information skills Training for Young people.

I can’t help but feel that the Web site should continue to be hosted. But what should the general policy be for project Web sites? What are others doing for project Web sites whose funding may have ceased ten years ago or five years ago or even more recently?

Note: Coincidentally after published this post I received an email containing details of the uptime for the Exploit Interactive and Cultivate Interactive Web sites. I receive an automated email if the Web sites are not available and also receive weekly reports on the server availability, as illustrated below. Another approach to consider for legacy Web sites?

Posted in preservation | 13 Comments »

Non-Commercial Use Restriction Removed From This Blog

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 January 2011

Posts and comments published on this blog have been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC BY-NC-SA). I have used this licence since Creative Commons became accepted in UK legislation, initially for deliverables provided by the JISC-funded QA Focus project. As described in a paper on “Let’s Free IT Support Materials!” presented at the EUNIS 2005 Conference:

The decision to make QA Focus briefing papers available under a Creative Commons licence was made as part of the project’s exit strategy. The project deliverables will be available for at least three years after the end of funding, as required by the funders. However we were concerned that a passive approach would not be effective in maximising the project’s impact across the community and that the approach advocated and lessons learnt could be forgotten or ignored. There was also a concern that the project’s deliverables would become invalid or inaccurate over time, as a result of technological, legal, etc. changes. To ensure the deliverables continued to promote good practice in the long-term, a policy was developed to allow free use and modification of briefing papers.

The BY-NC-SA licence was chosen as it seemed at the time to provide a safe option, allowing the resources to be reused by others in the sector whilst retaining the right to commercially exploit the resources.In reality, however, the resources haven’t been exploited commercially and increasingly the sector is becoming aware of the difficulties in licensing resources which excludes commercial use, as described by Peter Murray-Rust in a recent post on “Why I and you should avoid NC licence“.

CC BY-SA licenceI have therefore decided that from 1 January 2011 posts and comments published on this blog will be licenced with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC BY-SA).

Note that version 2.0 of the licence is being used, as this is the latest version which has been ported for use under UK legislation.

Also note that the licence applies to the text of blog posts – other objects published on the blog, such as screen images, video clips, etc. will not normally be covered by this licence.

Posted in Blog, openness | 9 Comments »